LEADER: Harry's war 'stunt' is just first chapter

For some days during the past week it has been difficult to distinguish the front pages of Hello! and The Guardian.

Danny Rogers, Editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek

Each has focused on Prince Harry as the boys' own hero in Afghanistan. Instead of scattered body parts on rubble-strewn streets, we have seen the smiling, flak-jacketed royal soldier.

Inevitably - and thankfully - some journalists have broken ranks after the event. Notably Channel 4's Jon Snow.

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Snow's argument is that such collusion between establishment and the fourth estate is unhealthy. He has been attacked for this view, but one feels the need to support Snow. We cannot laud our diverse media and democracy, and then condemn a distinguished journalist for championing independence of mind.

The Guardian's Peter Wilby takes a slightly different viewpoint. In a piece entitled 'Harry's war: it's just a blatant PR stunt' on Monday, Wilby claims it was another example of 'churnalism' and a propaganda stunt by the MoD to promote 'a war of dubious legitimacy'.

While Wilby is wrong to see this as 'churnalism' - this was without doubt carefully considered by a lot of very senior journalists - our own investigations reveal much of the process was indeed handled by the MoD's PR machine rather than that at Clarence House.

But to describe it as a 'PR stunt' is unfair. This was a long-term comms programme originating, many months ago, in Prince Harry's frustration at not going to Iraq.

Clarence House and the MoD devised the strategy which, like much good PR, involved long-term reputational management and brilliant execution.

Has it worked? In the short term, yes, although some believe it could still spectacularly backfire.

But the most encouraging thing is that the story is far from over. Both Prince Harry and the war itself will continue to be heavily scrutinised. This is both good for the PR professionals and healthy for democracy.

Email: danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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